Don’t expect brokers to disclose square footage

Any broker who provides a listing’s square footage verbally or in writing — even with a disclaimer — has to be chastened by one buyer’s latest victory.

As the indefatigable Christine Haughney reported in yesterday’s New York Times, a couple who sued a major Brooklyn developer over 109 “missing” square feet in a condo just walked away with their deposit plus $150,000 to settle the case as a jury was about to be selected.

Not long before closing on a two-bedroom condo in Brooklyn, they measured the living room, dining room and kitchen, coming up with 634 square feet versus the 743 square feet that had been advertised

After arguing until March 23, when a jury was to be selected, developer Two Trees Management decided to cough up $81,077 for the contract deposit plus interest as well as $150,000, according to Haughney.  That settlement provided that plaintiffs Rishi and Heather Bhandari would not live in any of the company’s buildings for four years.

So incensed does Bhandari remain, however, that he deliberately broke a confidentiality clause and the $20,000 bonus that went with it.

You may have noticed that brokers already have been increasingly reluctant to disclose square footage, hemming and hawing if asked and omitting the number from marketing materials.  One reason has been a spate of similar lawsuits so great in number that firms such as Prudential Douglas Elliman forbade its sales personnel from giving out the data.

Now, with Bhandaris’ settlement so prominent in the news, you can expect more brokers than not to demur when asked how big a property is.

What is wrong anyway with merely describing a place, being specific about the number of or impressionist dimensions of the rooms (i.e. unusually large or, say, cozy)?  How a place feels to a visiting– which gave rise to the Bhandaris’ lawsuit — is far more important than how many feet is contains.

Some may contend that square footage is critical to comparing the value of one property with others, and that’s true.  But one smart broker mentioned to me recently that she prefers price per share in a co-op as the best gauge.  That sounds like a good idea to me.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

Malcolm@ServiceYouCanTrust.com
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4 thoughts on “Don’t expect brokers to disclose square footage

  1. Square footage is a problem as there are so many ways to measure: inside the apartment, from outside the building, from thhe exterior wall etc. Until there is one way to measure there can not be a correct formula. The proper thing for a consumer to do is have a professional measure the property and bid accordingly. While a condo lists square footage, the co-operatives will list rooms and they must have windows to be a room… otherwise they are areas or storage space. The moral of the story is bring in a professional architect or engineer before you buy as it will be one of the biggest assets of your life. Something to think about! Marilyn Harra Kaye, President, MLBKaye International Realty, Realtor

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  2. Irony Alert: yesterday you were railing about the over-used modifiers (aka broker babble); today you come out in favor of exchanging a number (sq ft, even it there is an ‘official’ measurement) for “merely describing” a place, endorsing (by example) “unusually large” and “cozy”.

    Personally, I like babble that is accurate. I also like sq ft if it is sourced. Price-Per-Share as a way to compare coop values?? Since different coops have different numbers of shares, it doesn’t help comparing between buildings. Many coop shares were allocated in the first place based on proxies for Value (size + floor height within building), with larger apartments having more shares, units on lower floors having successively fewer shares. Maybe I need to get “uptown” more often, but that does not seem particularly useful to me.

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